Little Grenjai soup
Photo courtesy of Little Grenjai

The RundownNew York

Everything You Need to Know About Bed-Stuy’s Little Grenjai


One of the city’s most beloved roving pop-ups finally found a home in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn last fall and in this edition of the Resy Rundown, we focus on Little Grenjai, the Thai American diner from Sutathip Aiemsaard and Trevor Lombaer.

The restaurant quietly opened for business in mid-September with a limited menu — featuring a highly sought over krapow smashburger — and now that they’ve finally received gas (thanks, ConEd!), they can launch the full menu beginning on Friday, Jan. 26. Here’s everything you need to know about Little Grenjai before you make your Resy.

1. It all started with a swipe.

Aiemsaard and Lombaer have been cooking together since they met on Tinder while in Thailand in 2017. The year prior, Lombaer had quit his job as a line cook in Brooklyn and bought a one-way ticket to Bangkok, where he wanted to learn about home-style Thai cooking. On their first date, they connected over their love for food. Aiemsaard, then a graphic designer, invited Lombaer to a seafood feast in her hometown of Samut Sakhon, about 30 miles from Bangkok. Soon after, they took cooking classes together, like Chef LeeZ, in 2017 throughout Thailand, and just a few months later, they moved to New York and debuted their Warung Roadside pop-up. Warung has taken the form of a food truck, pushcart, a friend’s backyard get-together, and a ghost kitchen in Downtown Brooklyn over the past six years.

Photo by Sutathip Aiemsaard, courtesy of Little Grenjai
Photo by Sutathip Aiemsaard, courtesy of Little Grenjai

2. This has been in the works for some time.

Since 2019, they’ve been gunning for a brick-and-mortar home for their cooking, but it’s been a struggle. Three lease negotiations fell through, and when they finally landed in their Bed-Stuy space, they faced an unexpected gut renovation, and lots of construction and logistical delays (see the aforementioned gas situation). Still, they couldn’t be happier about finally having a space to call their own. “Seeing people in our space, we got emotional,” says Aiemsaard. “It’s becoming more and more real. We both feel great about it.”

Congee will eventually be a part of the restaurant’s breakfast menu. Photo by Nicholas Castle, courtesy of Little Grenjai
Congee will eventually be a part of the restaurant’s breakfast menu. Photo by Nicholas Castle, courtesy of Little Grenjai

3. Little Grenjai represents the couple’s shared cultures.

The couple’s respective roots — Aiemsaard grew up in Thailand and Lombaer in Chicago — are at the heart of the menu, which they describe as 25% American and 75% Thai and South Asian.

“What I’m really excited about is diving into this Thai American playground where we can kind of combine the flavors and have some fun with it,” says Lombaer. His kitchen resumé includes working at the now-closed Black Tree, a farm-to-table spot in Williamsburg, Bill’s Bar and Burgers in Midtown Manhattan, and assisting his sister, chef Meagan Lombaer, with her pop-ups at the Ipsento 606 coffee shop in Chicago.

The cultural crossover shows up in dishes like the Chiang Mai Chi Dog, a grilled sai oua sausage in a curry paste, presented Chicago-style with sport peppers, dill pickle, relish, onion, tomato, celery salt, and mustard. For the krapow smashburger, Lombaer seasons a pork and beef patty with chile, basil, and oyster sauce, and tops it with lemongrass and bird’s eye chile giardiniera, American cheese, and a sauce richly flavored with shrimp heads, shallots, and mayonnaise. They also plan to eventually roll out a breakfast menu of pastries and congee.

Lombaer is tinkering with some other ideas, too. He’s mashing up the concepts of pad cha, a spicy southern Thai seafood stir-fry with green peppercorn and fingerroot (an aromatic herb like ginger), and clam toast, steamed clams poured over a nice piece of toast. “It’s one of my favorite American dishes,” he says. In his version, a chile paste-infused Texas toast gets topped with pad cha.

There’s also a Thai American fried chicken coated in rice flour, “so it’s a little lighter and crispy and juicy on the inside with a big crunch” served with collard greens braised in tom zap. “You get big, heavy herbs hitting you,” he explains. For Little Grenjai’s take on fish and chips, black sea bass gets battered in light rice flour and then fried and served with Aiemsaard’s green seafood sauce.

The fusion of different culinary traditions isn’t limited to Thai and American, either. Lombaer is also experimenting with pickled mustard greens, and the couple continues to take cooking classes on their travels, so expect to see some influences from Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and India, appearing on the menu, too.

Photo courtesy of Little Grenjai
Photo courtesy of Little Grenjai

4. This is Thai food on Aiemsaard’s terms.

When Aiemsaard came to the U.S., there was a bit of cognitive dissonance: The American menu of Thai standards — pad see ew, drunken noodles, and particularly pad Thai, which has become an iconic cultural marker for Thai food — was not an accurate representation of what’s popular in Thailand. “All the famous dishes that people keep talking about [in the U.S.], we are not eating it on a regular basis [in Thailand],” she says.

Further, the recipes varied. The holy basil stir-fry as it’s done in Thailand includes simply meat and holy basil. But here, there’s the addition of bell pepper and green beans. Aiemsaard says she’s witnessed people in the U.S. putting ketchup in pad Thai, too. “Yeah, that’s a no [back home], absolutely,” she says.

So, when it comes to the Thai dishes at Little Grenjai, Aiemsaard and Lombaer have made it a point to stick to how Aiemsaard grew up eating and remembering them, especially now that she’s 9,000 miles from home. Some deviations, however, couldn’t be helped. Aiemsaard hasn’t been able to easily source Thai garlic, fresh coconut, or the sheer breadth of fresh herbs that are “the key to dishes in Thailand.” But she adapted, making do with what’s here. She’s subbed Chinese garlic for Thai garlic, and canned coconut for fresh coconut. One thing they’re not compromising on, however, is toning down the use of chile peppers or fish sauce, or messing too much with traditional recipes. “My kitchen, my way,” says Aiemsaard.

Photo courtesy of Little Grenjai
Photo courtesy of Little Grenjai

5. They’re really excited about their new wok stove.

Aiemsaard and Lombaer can’t stop gushing about their new wok stove, which will allow them to do so much more than what they could do before with their pop-ups.

For reference, a powerful standard stove top can reach 16,000 BTU (British thermal units); a wok burner can exceed 100,000 BTU. The flame is about eight times as big, explains Lombaer. And, as Aiemsaard explains, it can achieve klinkrata, or what’s known in Cantonese as wok hei.

Little Grenjai’s crab fried rice, Chinese sausage fried rice, drunken noodles, and pad Thai will meet the blazes of the wok. For example, the pad Thai noodles get dropped in a caramelized blend of tamarind and palm sugar, and are stir-fried rapidly at high heat, firing away any humidity from the food surface and maxing out the caramelization.

Photo by Nicholas Castle, courtesy of Little Grenjai
Photo by Nicholas Castle, courtesy of Little Grenjai

6. The vibe is Thai American diner through and through.

Aiemsaard, previously an interior designer, aimed for a friendly, approachable vibe, and landed on a Thai American diner concept for the approximately 30-seat restaurant. From there, all the design elements fell in place: checkerboard floors, sparkly booths, white subway tiles. Pops of red, white, and blue reference both the Thai and American flags.

7. Their pop-up days aren’t entirely over.

Holding onto their history of pop-ups, Lombaer and Aiemsaard plan to host two monthly recurring events at varied times: First up is the Tender Bits supper club on Jan. 19, which can be booked on Resy, where Lombaer’s off-menu experimentations with ingredients make an appearance and the dishes will never be the same. Next month, they plan to launch their krapow smashburger party series, called Would Smash, as a casual hangout session with DJs.


Little Grenjai is open for lunch and dinner service Wednesday through Sunday, with extended dinner hours on Fridays and Saturdays.

Caroline Shin is a Flushing, Queens-bred food journalist. Watch her award-winning show on YouTube, and follow her on Instagram. Follow Resy, too.